A historian from Ahmedabad has found a precious and unique book among a pile of discarded books at the Sunday flea market. The book, titled “Gujarati Sangeet Ramayana”, is a musical interpretation of the Hindu epic Ramayana in Gujarati language.
The book was written by Chhaganlal Vallabh Vasavada, a judge with the Bantva state court in Saurashtra, and published in 1911 by Veniram Lavji Joshi and Master Laxmichand Uttamchand and Company of Rajkot. It contains the story of Lord Rama, the ideal king and hero of the Ramayana, in poetic and lyrical form.
The book is divided into various sections, corresponding to the different chapters of the Ramayana, such as “Bala Kand”, “Ayodhya Kand” and so on. Each section has Ramlila performances, which are traditional folk plays depicting the life of Rama, set to different rhythmic patterns, rhythms, and musical traditions.
The book also has a detailed calendar of Lord Rama’s life, chronicling the major events from his birth to his coronation. The book reveres Lord Rama as a symbol of dharma, or righteous duty. “The Ramayana has been retold countless times, but this musical rendition by Vasavada is a truly unique offering. It was written for the common Gujarati masses to popularize the sacred epic tale,” says Rizwan Kadri, the historian who discovered the book.
In the foreword of the book, Vasavada explains that one of his main motives for writing the “Gujarati Sangeet Ramayana” was to educate men on how to be faithful and respectful of women’s sacrifices as wives and as individuals in a family, a woman’s role in society and in family, devotion of children towards their parents, respecting family, and how to live in harmony and peace in a community that is diverse and vivid.
Kadri says he has taken a digital scan of the book and plans to reprint it and circulate it among key institutions. “For those with a deep appreciation for music and devotion, “Gujarati Sangeet Ramayana” is a treasure. Vasavada’s command over music and the Ramayana narrative is evident in the intricate and nuanced composition of the work. This book must be revived and shared,” he says.
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